Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Ulmus Campestris

It is a little late, but spring is finally bursting out all over, including at the Conway Public Library, where you will find the bees busy around the many flowering trees and shrubs. However, you won't find any of the original English Elms planted in 1900.

However, you can find out about the long history of landscaping and gardening at the library starting in the red room with our original Nursery-Man, Jacob W. Manning, of Reading, Mass.

There you will find his portrait and a caption that reads, ...

I find it particularly interesting that they documented the provenance of the trees, "The English elms were raised from seed in Orleans, France, in 1884. They were carried to a Philadelphia (Pa.) nursery in 1886 and to Conway, October 1900."

Jacob Warren Manning and his five sons were prominent in New England horticultural history.  

According to one of their period trade catalogs, the price for an English elm would have been 75 cents.

Our nursery-man's house has even been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Jacob Manning House is a historic house at 140 High Street in Reading, Massachusetts. Built in 1877 for garden nursery owner Jacob Manning, this 2.5 story wood frame house is an excellent local example of Stick style architecture. It has a steeply pitched roof, multiple gables, tall thin windows, and decorative half-timber woodwork. The owner, Jacob Manning, owned one of the largest nurseries in the area, and was responsible for the landscaping of the Massachusetts pavilion at the 1893 Chicago World Fair.

Landscape architecture is an ephemeral and mercurial practice. Over the years there have been many changes in the landscape around the library.

The original rendering for the building shows only low shrubs.

A photo taken in 2000 during the 100th anniversary of the library (see the banner over the north entrance) shows pair of trees flanking a walkway (all of which has changed now). 

Like any form of artistic expression, landscape architecture is influenced by changes in fashion and style. The specification for an English elm harkens across the pond to the world wide 18th century phenomenon of the seemingly "natural" English country gardens of Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton and his famous "red books" as opposed to more formal, symetrical and fancy French gardens of the 17th century.  

At one time there was a a proposal for a skating rink or tennis court in the library park.

Detail (click on image to enlarge)

The granite plaque near the entrance of the library indicates the landscape design for the expansion was led by John Wacker and Associates.

Most recently there has been the addition of food gardening in raised beds. It is interesting to think how the landscaping will change and where it will go in the future. Personally I am looking forward to the addition of an indoor heated pool and hot tub complete with a waterfall, slide and open atrium so patrons can float in the pool while gazing at the stars and of course, an open pit fireplace and grill for s'mores.

For those visiting the Conway Public Library, there is always the eternal spring garden at the entrance to the Children's Room. (Gift of the Marshall and Lucy Family)

The scene transforms the columns into tree trunks. A careful observer may notice a tree frog climbing on the bark.

The artist makes it look like the donor plaque is hanging from a branch and has a bird's nest on top of it. An emergency light has been turned into a bird house. 

Be sure to look beyond the canopy and not miss the whimsical hot air balloon.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bridging the Span of History

Recently we added a number of bridge pictures to our online history database. See this link. We are still adding items to the list. Our collection covers the afghan coverlet seen above as well as paintings, photographs, post cards, maps, financial records related to bridges, technical books comparing different types of trusses and explaining stresses and many other items.

We have pictures of bridges that have burned and no longer exist...

... and ones that have been restored and repaired.

We have pictures of ice flows that threatened the bridges...

... stone bridges

... metal bridges

... and even a floating foot bridge

Recent outreach events we have been involved with include an OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) program and field trip to nearby covered bridges, working with Kennett High School to document moving the Stoney Morrill covered bridge from Heritage NH to the High School, (we were also involved in the original program in 1999 when that bridge was featured at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C.), working with the Conway Historical Society on a display of bridge building tools, bridge models and artwork that included a presentation by the famous Graton bridge and timber framing company, a program by Michael Callis on the railroad bridge near Frankenstein Cliff in Crawford Notch and an upcoming program that features the infamous Chocorua rustic bridge.

To schedule an outreach program for your school or community group contact us at the Conway Public Library... and please visit our website and surf our collection ...

... or better yet drop by and explore the collection in person.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Chiaroscuro: Landscapes in Light and Shade

Chiaroscuro is defined as the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting. It also applies to the early days of photography.

Did you know that some of the earliest photos ever taken in America were of the White Mountains in New Hampshire? The photo above was done around 1840 by Samuel A. Bemis of the Notch House, just north of the gate or opening of Crawford Notch. 

In 1987 the month of May was officially recognized by Congress as National Photography Month and this blog explores some of the many ways photography is used to explore the local history we preserve and share here at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

You can search just over two thousand photos by keyword on our website at this link.  We are currently processing hundreds more which will be posted online soon. In addition we can link you to thousands more photos in other collections such as the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and the Boston Public Library that tie to our local history.

For decades our Henney History Room curators and other local historians have used our photo collection for a number of books on the Conways, North Conway, and the White Mountains. Items from our photo collection regularly are used in the Conway Daily Sun.

In addition to photographic prints, negatives, slides and post cards, the history room has some interesting photographs that can be found in our rare book collection. One set of photographs are particularly unique and can be found in a nineteenth century geology book.

The author experimented with different visual formats for seeing the unseen.  In this case he use a transparent overlays of color to show the underlying type of bedrock.

Here is the best match of the view I could capture today with a digital camera from the parking lot of the Red Jacket Resort.

Earlier today, Michael Callis gave a program on the photograph below, which was a copy of either a painting or a lithograph of a painting of Mount Washington at/from Frankenstein Cliff in Crawford Notch.

We invite you to visit our collection either online or in person and we can help guide you in using photographs in researching local history. We also would welcome any volunteer help you might be willing to provide to continue posting our photos online.